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Jessie L. Sherrod MD, MPH Celebrated as a Trailblazer in the Field of Medicine

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

From the cotton fields in the sweltering heat of the Mississippi Delta to the amphitheaters at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Sherrod was the first student from Tougaloo College to attend Harvard Medical School. Subsequently, more than ten Tougaloo students followed her lead and have graduated Harvard Medical and Dental School. Opening the doors of Tougaloo College Hall of Fame, in 1992 she became the first in Tougaloo’s inaugural group to be inducted in the field of medicine.


Similarly in 2002, Dr. Sherrod became the first African American in the inaugural group to be inducted into University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Fielding School of Public Health Hall of Fame. Her outstanding service in public health included founding the Association of Black Women Physicians (ABWP) of Los Angeles with 48 charter members in 1982. ABWP’s vision is to empower women physicians to lead in health and wellness, and to increase the number and status of Black women physicians in medicine.

At an early age, Dr. Sherrod along with her ten siblings became promoters of civil rights as members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She integrated Coker’s cafe in downtown Hollandale, Mississippi in the eighth grade. Graduating valedictorian from Simmons High School in 1967, a summer spent at Tougaloo College National Science Foundation enrichment program, freed her from picking cotton for two cents per pound, and spurred her interest in medicine.

Dr. Sherrod attributes her advocacy for human rights to her ancestors and cousins, Dr. Daniel Webster Sherrod, the first Black physician in Macon, Mississippi (1896). A lynch mob ran him out of Macon in 1906 to Meridian, Mississippi where he established Sherrod Drug Company, since 1906, and continued his care for people of color. Also his brother, Dr. John Percy Sherrod, the first Black physician in Port Gibson, Mississippi, who was lynched for treating, and curing a white woman that white physicians had failed to heal.

Dr. Sherrod’s steadfastness in influencing health equity and inclusion was apparent as she, later in her career, served on the Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1971 from a HBCU, Tougaloo College, she received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1975. Dr. Sherrod completed her post graduate training by 1980, at UCLA Medical Center in Pediatrics and Infectious Disease, served as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, and completed her Master of Public Health in Health Services Administration. Later in her career she earned a Certificate in Healthcare Policy and Medical Management from the University of Southern California.

During the early 1980s, Dr. Sherrod established herself in the field of medicine by publishing the landmark study on “Compliance in Immunizations,’ Journal of Pediatrics 1983, by serving as a Los Angeles County Public Health Commissioner for five years and collaborating with Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Ambassador of Health, Dionne Warwick, to advance community education on HIV and AIDS.

As a private Pediatric Infectious Disease Consultant she parlayed her knowledge to others as a visiting Assistant Professor at the David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine, UCLA Medical Center. Backed by years of professional expertise, Dr. Sherrod served as Chief Physician and Hospital Epidemiologist at Martin Luther King, Jr. Drew Medical Center of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. Simultaneously, Dr. Sherrod served as Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, which recently became the first historically black medical school west of the Mississippi River. With inadequate staff support, she successfully reduced MLK’s hospital nosocomial infection rate by 50 percent in one year, to abort the closure of the hospital from excess mortality related to infections in hospitalized patients.

Retired from medicine, Dr. Sherrod dedicates herself to the community impacting women’s health as the founder of the Association of Black Women Physicians (ABWP) Los Angeles, which is only the second of its kind in the United States. ABWP has donated scholarships to approximately 500 medical students over the past 40 years. Driven to impact diversity and inclusion she aligns herself with both civic and medical organizations, including the National Medical Association, a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Women’s Association, American Medical Association, National Medical Fellowship, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, National Council of Black Women, California Black Women’s Health Network, Black Women for Wellness, and the Brotherhood Crusaders.

Dr Sherrod was recently featured in the book “Against All Odds: Celebrating Black Women in Medicine” and has been featured in both Ebony, Jet and Black Enterprises magazines. Throughout her career she has won numerous awards and honors through the California State Senate and Legislature, Los Angeles County Commission for Women, Chi Eta Phi and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Though her career has been filled with highlights, including national appearances on CBS, NBC, Lifetime Television, Tony Brown’s Journal, KJLH and Fox News, she takes the most pride in her advocacy for better health policy for women and children.

Dr. Sherrod has impacted public health policy in diversity, equity and inclusion through the Association of Black Women Physicians, serving as chair of the Pediatric Section of the National Medical Association, as a founding member of the NMA Council on Concerns of Women Physicians, as a co-founder of the International Coalition of Women Physicians, as a Freedom Sister at the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance and as a member of the ACIP at the Centers for Disease Control.

The cornerstone of her overall success lay with her ancestors, parents, family, and mentors, including Mr. T. R. & Howard Sanders, and Mr. Bernard Weathers from Simmons High School, Dr. Bharati D. Mehrothra, PhD, from Tougaloo College, Dr. Delihas from Brookhaven National Laboratory and Dr. Paul Torrens from Fielding UCLA School of Public Health. In the future, Dr. Sherrod intends to document her life journey as a Black woman physician.

Jessie L. Sherrod has been included in Marquis Who’s Who. As in all Marquis Who’s Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.

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